Collective Action in Diverse Sierra Leone Communities
Scholars have pointed to ethnic and other social divisions as a leading cause of economic underdevelopment, due in part to their adverse effects on public good provision and collective action. We investigate this issue in post-war Sierra Leone, one of the world’s poorest countries. To address concerns over endogenous local ethnic composition, and in an advance over most existing work, we use an instrumental variables strategy relying on historical ethnic diversity data from the 1963 Sierra Leone Census. We find that local ethnic diversity is not associated with worse local public goods provision across a variety of outcomes, regression specifications, and diversity measures, and that these “zeros” are precisely estimated. We investigate the role that two leading mechanisms proposed in the literature – enforcement of collective action by strong local government authorities, and the existence of a common national identity and language – in generating these perhaps surprising findings.